ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – Bay College’s sixth president took office on July 10. Now, she is preparing for her first semester in the role.
Dr. Nerita Hughes moved to the Upper Peninsula in July from Minnesota, where she had an extensive career in higher education, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and workforce development.
Dr. Hughes came across the open position at Bay College while serving as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Workforce Innovation at North Hennepin Community College. She also worked as Hennepin’s Dean for the School of Business, Careers, Education, and Workforce Innovation.
“What really intrigued me to even put in the application was really what Bay was trying to move towards, and that was the camaraderie between, ‘How do you build out workforce, business, and industry, and then also couple that with what the community colleges are needing?'” said Dr. Hughes. “There was also this interest of diversity, equity, and inclusion, that’s why really my ears perked up because that was my background.”
Dr. Hughes is a mother to three adult children. She also has one grandchild. Dr. Hughes came to the U.P. with her oldest daughter. She says they love what they have seen of the area so far.
“It really does give you kind of that homey feel,” Dr. Hughes said. “My parents are from Louisiana, so when I first came up here that’s instantly what it reminded me of. It’s kind of that rural community where everybody knows everybody.”
Dr. Hughes’ favorite aspect so far is the people.
“We have encountered nothing but people just being welcoming to us, and I think that that’s a blessing in disguise because that’s not always going to be the case,” she said. “I will be out in the community. You will see me out and about, not always dressed up, and just being me. I want people to see the humanistic side of me and not my title.”
Since taking on the title of president just under a month ago, Dr. Hughes has been on a listening tour both on campus and in the community.
“I met with the Chamber yesterday, I’ve met with the superintendent, I’ve met with Escanaba’s City manager, I’ve met with Gladstone’s city manager,” she said. “It’s really, for these first 90 days, just for me to listen and learn.”
Dr. Hughes is using this time of listening and learning to craft her full vision for the fall semester. In the meantime, she is passionate about promoting workforce development and preparing students for careers after Bay College.
“If we have our three pillars—student success, community success, and culture of success—then how are we building that out?” she asked. “Can we be the first person that a business and industry partner calls and a student walks out of our four walls to say, ‘Because of Bay, I was able to connect with this business and industry partner that I probably would not have’?”
Dr. Hughes is excited to welcome students back to Bay College this fall. She looks forward to continuing the college’s legacy as the “community’s college.”